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Kenya Airways Suspends Flights To Kinshasa

The carrier is protesting the detention of staff in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A Kenya Airways Boeing 737-800 (Photo: Jonathan Palombo, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

Kenya Airways (KQ) has suspended flights to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This decision was made in response to the continued detention of two of KQ employees by the Military Intelligence Unit in Kinshasa, according to the statement from the airline on Monday.

“Due to the continued detention of KQ employees by the Military Intelligence Unit in Kinshasa, Kenya Airways (KQ) is unable to support our flights without personnel effectively,” the airline said.

The employees, who work at the carrier’s airport office in the DRC capital were arrested by the Congolese military intelligence unit, known as Detection Militaire des Activities Anti Patrie (DEMIAP), on April 19, 2024 allegedly because of “missing custom documentation on valuable cargo,” the airline said last week.

But the airline’s CEO Allan Kilavuka said last week that the cargo in question, whose contents are not specified, was “not uplifted or accepted by KQ due to incomplete documentation.”

Despite KQ’s explanation that they had not accepted the cargo due to incomplete paperwork, the military has held them “incommunicado” until Tuesday (April 23) when a team from the Kenyan Embassy and KQ were allowed to visit them albeit for a few minutes. KQ also reported that their phones were confiscated during the arrest. The content of the cargo remains unknown, and DRC authorities have not yet commented.

In its statement on Monday, Kenya Airways said the “unlawful detention” had “made it difficult for us to supervise our operations in Kinshasa, which include customer service, ground handling, cargo activities, and generally ensuring safe, secure, and efficient operations.”

“We ask that the Military court’s direction that they be released to allow due process to be respected so that our innocent staff can return to their families and everyday lives without harassment.”

The incident sparked anger in Kenya, with the head of a powerful parliamentary committee calling it a breach of diplomatic rules.

“This is a serious infringement of the rights of the two Kenyans and a worrying breach of the diplomatic principles upon which… Kenya-DRC relations are founded,” Nelson Koech, chair of a parliamentary committee covering defense, intelligence, and foreign relations, said Friday.

Kenya Airways operates non-stop flights to Kinshasa and Lubumbashi in the DRC, with six weekly flights from Nairobi to Kinshasa and one weekly flight directly to Lubumbashi, utilizing Boeing 737-800 and Embraer 190 aircraft.

Victor Shalton

Author

  • Victor Shalton

    Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Victor’s love for aviation goes way back to when he was 11-years-old. Living close to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, he developed a love for planes and he even recalls aspiring to be a future airline executive for Kenya Airways. He also has a passion in the arts and loves writing and had his own aviation blog prior to joining AirlineGeeks. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration at DeKUT and aspiring to make a career in a more aviation-related course.

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